In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote an influential book on the education of boys and girls. From a modern perspective, his views on the fundamental differences between the sexes are exceptional. Do traces of them still remain?
The Vicarious Joy of Pomatum
I'm missing 18th century London. My novel, The Posture Girl, is with my agent and with it has gone my excuse to explore the stinking streets of the burgeoning capital. I miss the white hair powder, the corsets and the Drury Lane Theatre. I miss the home brewed gin and the sponging houses.
Abraham Lincoln – unearthing the man beneath
The short story writer, George Saunders, won the Booker prize in 2017 for his first long work of fiction - Lincoln in the Bardo. It's a great, innovative patchwork of a book and his approach to historical fiction is so unusual and thought-provoking that I can't help but join the clamour of praise.
The Cabinet of Lost Minerals
In 1810, Sir Charles Greville's substantial collection of minerals were bought by the British Museum for a small fortune. Yesterday morning, before the public came, I met with the Minerals Curator to search for any of his specimens that we could find - over 200 years later.
The Story of Admiral Nelson in Cape Town
I love a good afternoon tea. Landing in Cape Town to a feast of cucumber sandwiches and scones at the Mount Nelson was heavenly. Nearly. The long history of racial inequality and stories of our Anglo Saxon empire endure in surprising ways.
I've just finished Emile Zola's The Masterpiece - a fascinating glimpse into the Paris of the Impressionist movement and a poignant study of artistic genius and merit.
Searching for the Impossible
My winter obsession with thrillers is finally abating, but there is one book that I cannot stop thinking about with a fresh rush of pleasure, excitement and adrenaline: Lionel Davidson's Kolymsky Heights.
Would you breast-feed a stranger’s child?
Nursing another woman's child used to be an respected and common form of employment in Britain. What happened?
Tokens of Love
After the festivities and the feasting, my mind turns to the tokens that mothers left to identify their babies at the Foundling Hospital in the 18th century. These pathetic scraps of hope are probably the most poignant objects I've ever seen.
Voyeurism and Rowlandson
We live in an abundantly voyeuristic period, where we can find anything that arouses us online. Yet, the 18th century artist, Thomas Rowlandson, illustrates that voyeurism isn't a modern phenomenon. Perhaps it's human nature.
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